The Discovery Of Oxygen Was Thanks To Beer (WFOTD)

Posted By Ben Goulding, 12 March, 2010 | permalink

Joseph Priestley is usually credited with the discovery of oxygen, having isolated it in its gaseous state, however beer is what lead him to the discovery.

When Priestley moved next door to a brewery he noticed that bubbles of gas were being given off by the beer vats and was fascinated that they floated to the ground. This implied that they were heavier than air.

This lead him to ask the brewers if he could do some experiments with it. From this, he was able to show that this ‘heavier-than-air’ gas was able to extinguish burning wood chips. This gas would later be identified as carbon dioxide.

He later went on to discover that the gas produced by heating a sample of mercury oxide would allow a candle to burn more brightly, and enable a mouse to live up to four times as long as in normal air.

“I have discovered an air five or six times as good as common air”, Priestly wrote.

Voila. Oxygen!

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